Josh Becker “You Are An IRONMAN!”

Monday, February 20, 2017 by admin

Wow! I it has been just over a week since I completed my first and possibly my only Full Distance Ironman.  My journey has been a long road of pain, sweat and tears.  It all started in 2008, I signed up with Team in Training and completed my first Sprint Distance Triathlon and I completely bonked during that race!  When I started training then, I remember talking to people about the longer distances and saying I will never say never; but I don’t think I will be able to do that.  However, here I am 8 years later talking about 140.6 miles completed and my hard earned status of now being an Ironman.

In 2014, I had a personal best training season.  I had done distances that year that I had never done before, Olympic Distance Triathlons and then moving forward to doing the Half Ironman 70.3 distance.  Austin was a challenge due to many things.  I had GI issues the day before, and also had to deal with hot temperatures.  After that year they moved the race one week later due to the temperatures.  My training was really focused and my Coach Denise was happy with the work I had done.  I learned a lot about what worked for me during that race and what didn’t work for me.  Since then I have taken those things to heart and have fine tuned my nutrition to successfully do my races.  After doing Half Ironman Austin 70.3, I told Coach Denise that I wanted to do a Full Distance, and she knew I had the bug that most triathletes get after completing a certain distance.  I really wanted to do a race in 2015, however due to complications of surgery at the end of 2014 I had to settle for some short distance races towards the end of the season.

You are probably wondering why I have such a desire to do these races and what drives me to beat these hard goals and challenges?  I was born with a genetic condition that’s called HDR Syndrome, a.k.a Barakat Syndrome (Hypoparathyroidism, Deafness, & Renal).  This condition not only affects my ability to hear but it also wrecks havoc on my body internally.  I already have signs of arthritis, and I am very injury prone.  These were things that Coach Denise and I spoke about with regards to my training to complete an Ironman.  My decision was to do the Team Race, Ironman Maryland, I felt like it would be a great scenic race especially being so close to where I went to college and getting my friends from college to come down and spectate.  I was really excited to prepare for this race.  What drove me and helped push me to train and do this race was my connection to Hypoparathyroidism.  I know many people with this disease that struggle day in and day out with the complications of it, and I want to be a voice for them and I want to inspire them .  My goal is to show that you can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it. When it comes to certain things in life is all in the mind.  If you tell yourself you can do this, and keep the focus on the prize you will do it and you will accomplish goals many never thought would be possible.  My journey became personal and that is probably the strongest drive you can have to beat a goal.

Coach Denise has learned a lot about my disease since she started coaching me.  It’s my job to tell her what she needs to know.  I had days during my training that I wouldn’t be able to train due to low calcium issues.  Just to shed some light on how this makes things difficult, my parathyroid glands don’t work, I take a man made injection of Parathyroid hormone, and this allows me to stay alive.  The parathyroid gland has a large responsibility in getting potassium and calcium in my blood and my muscles.  The biggest muscle in the body is the Heart, and then whatever is left goes to the rest of my body. I would have weeks where we increased the distance of swimming, bicycling, and running and my body would hit a wall and there was nothing I could do but rest.  We planned for this, and for this reason we started my training in the winter time of 2015.  It was going to be a long training season and we had to be careful to avoid a burn out in training and that burn out does happen.  The key to a successful race is a successful training plan that works for your individual needs.  If you are either from Texas or live here, you know that it gets hot in the summer time.  I focused a lot of my long distance training in the heat here.  One thing I know is that it trains my body in a unique way that when it’s cooler outside I actually am able to push myself harder then in the summer time.  I call it “Heat Training”.  This is what made my Ironman a successful race.

Fast forward into the end of summer, and heading into fall.  September 2016, I am just a few weeks away from doing Ironman Maryland, my bike has been dropped off to be transported to the race, and I am getting ready to beat this race.  I wake up in the middle of the night on a Saturday night a week before race day, and I have a spasming pain in my left lower groin area. I thought perhaps I could go back to sleep and I will wake up fine.  The pain was on and off all day.  I had to start packing for Maryland, and I text Coach Denise, she told me just to rest, and if I wasn’t better the next morning go see my doctor.  I wasn’t better 24 hours later, I went to the doctor and they diagnosed me with Diverticulitis.  This was actually a misdiagnosis, and I found out on Tuesday September 27th just 24 hours prior to when I had to leave for Maryland, that I had a 10mm stone stuck in my ureter.  I was devastated I had to have emergency kidney stone surgery on Wednesday September 28th.  I had worked so hard to beat this Ironman and I had all of my plans set in stone and was ready.  I really wanted to race with my team and it was one of the hardest days in my life coming to terms of not being able to participate.  Coach Denise, and I had some discussions while I was recovering from surgery, I didn’t want to throw away all of the training I had done for this year, it would be hard to start training again for another race in the spring time.  I decided to do the Charity Slot for Arizona it was my only option to race in 2016.  With everything that happened to me health wise, and what happened in Maryland regarding weather it was obvious that this was my race.  One of the biggest challenges was coming from being ready for Maryland. Then having to recover from surgery then I have to begin a ramp up of training for Ironman Arizona.  I had a few days where it was really a mental challenge to get through my training.  I was stressing about the what ifs. Will I have another stone?  Can I stay healthy?  Coach Denise told me, “There is no sense in being anxious about things that you can’t control. You need all your energy to get your training back to where it needs to be before the race.” She was right; I just had to stay focused.  This would prove to be a challenge a little less than 24 hours before my race, my right kidney decided it needed to pass a stone as well.  I was sore, most of that day and was having a reality check in my mental confidence for the race.  I struggled that night before going to bed.  Like I said before a race like this is a true test of your own mental strength.  I went over an adjustment of my race plan for Sunday if I was still sore from the stone and made mental adjustments to beat the Ironman.  For once I wasn’t going to let my body control me.



On race morning, the temperature of the water had dropped 3 degrees over night.  I did a practice swim the day before and it was 68 degrees.  My swim started really well, around the turn around approximately 1.2 miles out I had the same problem that happened in Austin, my legs just completely cramped up.  I was a little concerned but I slowed my pace down a little bit and rested for a few seconds then started swimming again.  My initial goal was to finish in 1 hour and 50 minutes.  Coach Denise felt I could do 1 hour and 30 minutes.  I wasn’t able to meet the 1-1/2 hour mark, but I did finish 1:47 and change! (Training flashback, I did Texas Man X50 in May that was some of the hardest swimming I have ever done, and I learned SO MUCH from that race!  I had a few 2.4 Mile swims during the summer time, I remember the one that TTT put on at Stewart Creek Park, and I was really not happy with my swim time, and I was cursing at Denise about how unhappy I was. I know she heard me, but she said I actually did a great job!) PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!


I trained really well for the bike this year!  I actually beat my bike goal time at Ironman Arizona!  It was cold and I prepared for whatever weather would be thrown at me on race day.  My special needs bag had anything I needed half way through the course or when I decided to use it.  My goal was to average 15-16mph on the bike and it was obvious the head winds I was dealing with on race day.  My heart rate was higher then I wanted it to be on the bike at times but it was colder outside so I proceeded with caution trying to control it as best I could. The tailwinds definitely helped give me an extra push on the way back to the turn around.  I packed Pickle Juice and Snickers Almond Bar in my special needs.  I drank both of the Pickle Juice bottles I had and I have never in my life drooled so much over a Snickers Almond Bar!  I drool dripping from mouth when I was finished eating it on the bike it was funny!  You have to find ways to amuse yourself when you are on the saddle that many hours! I ended up averaging just over 15 mph and beat my goal time by 25 minutes! If there was one thing I would change I would have worn some shoe covers to keep my toes warmer. Last but not least I caught myself choking up during the bike at a certain point because I knew that I was going to cross the finish line.


Just a little bit of back story, I have a bad left foot.  I had surgery on my big toe back in 2013, since that surgery I developed some bad arthritis and I am bone on bone on part of that foot.  We had many ups and downs during my training for this race regarding my foot.  My training plan consisted of a walk/run interval. Two Minutes walking, Thirty seconds running.  I stuck to this tooth and nail on the course for Ironman Arizona.  I ran when I needed to and I walked when I needed to.  Lot of people think you are only running for 30 seconds are you actually going to gain anything from it?  Yes you will.  When I run for 30 seconds I am running on an average under 10 minute mile and it just depends sometimes I am going as fast a 7-1/2 minute mile.  Lots of ground can be covered in just that 2-1/2 minute interval.  One of the things I prepared for during my race was my calcium levels dropping.  I mentioned before that having Hypoparathyroidism affects the function of your muscles, and the Ironman is an endurance sport.  The long hours of constant movement definitely makes it challenging for my body.  Before my run I took some calcium knowing there could be a possibility due to the time of day that I would go low.  On the second loop of my run my calcium was dipping. At one of the aid stations I got a bag of Fritos oh my god they tasted good, they were so salty!  I drank chicken broth as well, some of the aid stations it tasted really good others not so much.  I met up with my sister and Coach Denise when I got my special needs bag.  I grabbed a jacket and gloves to warm up a little bit, and specifically put a Chocolate Almond Milk drink in there for emergency calcium I only drank a little bit! My electrolyte was Active Nuun Regular and Energy best stuff I ever bought!  I also stashed a Snickers Almond in my special needs and ate a little bit of it on the run.  Everything panned out very well on my even after my watch died.  Towards the end it started to rain and I prepared for this having a place to put my hearing aids in, and I wanted to wear them across the line but it was pouring and I couldn’t put them in.  I finally made it down the stretch and my name was called out by Mike Riley, Josh Becker you are an Ironman! I heard later on that he had mentioned I withdrew from Ironman Maryland and came to do this race!

To finalize my report here, I had a fantastic race; I don’t think I could ask for a better Ironman.  My kidneys gave me a run for my money!  I kicked Hypoparathyroidism butt.  The kidney may have forced me to withdraw from Maryland, but it didn’t stop me in Arizona, I was not going to allow that.  I smiled my entire race, having my sister Caren and Coach Denise there to support me made it so much better.  I can’t thank them enough for being there.  Coach Lawrence made a great suggestion earlier in the year getting a VIP Pass for some family members.  Thank you for that suggestion it paid off for Coach Denise and Caren, they both had hot meals all day long and a place to sit that was dry from the rain.  Their goody bag was pretty awesome too! They got their credentials and a bag with an Ironman Blanket great for these cold days.  I absolutely loved doing this race, the beating and toll it took on my body not so much.  I am never going to say never but it is likely that this will be my only Full Distance Ironman my kidneys both spoke very loudly and at the worst timing too.  I plan on sticking with the Half Ironman 70.3 distances.

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